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Skiers will discover new terrain, equipment at many regional resorts

Black Phantom

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New is the word for the 2011-12 snow-sports season at local and regional resorts.

A new owner at Peek'n Peak; new concessionaire at Ski Denton; new restructuring at Wisp; new terrain at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley; new lifts at Holiday Valley, Kissing Bridge and Ski Sawmill; and new snow-grooming machines at Blue Knob, Snowshoe, Wisp, Holiday Valley and Kissing Bridge.

New restaurants at Snowshoe; new benefits for season passholders at Blue Knob, Hidden Valley, Seven Springs, Snowshoe, Whitetail and Wisp.

And new prices -- slightly higher at most resorts and, at some places lower, such as the all-inclusive weekday packages at Hidden Valley and Wisp. You can get a lift ticket, lesson and rental equipment for $28 on Mondays and Tuesdays at Hidden Valley and $29 on Mondays at Wisp.

Unfortunately, there's nothing new to report about Laurel Mountain, the state-owned ski area near Ligonier. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hopes to complete long-awaited improvements so Seven Springs can assume its operation for the 2012-13 season.


Changes are under way at two other resorts that have experienced some financial difficulties during the lagging economy.

Scott Enterprises, a well-known Erie developer, in August bid $11.3 million for Peek'n Peak, an 1,150-acre ski and golf resort in Findley Lake, N.Y., about 35 miles east of Erie. It made the bid in proceedings held in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Cleveland where the resort's former owners, Kiebler Recreation LLC, filed for Chapter 11 protection in May 2010.

In an interview with the Erie Times-News, Nick Scott Jr., vice president of the hospitality development company, called Peek'n Peak "a true jewel for our region." He said the company plans to upgrade the resort, including its aging Tudor-style inn that was built in 1964.

Mr. Scott, whose father is president of the company, hopes the change in ownership will ease the concerns of potential guests and conference planners who may have been reluctant to book rooms and schedule events at the resort.

"People can feel confident now that they can book there and enjoy the facility and not worry about whether or not it will be opened or closed, because we will be open," he said.

At Wisp in McHenry, Md., spokeswoman Lori Epp offered similar assurances about the status of that popular western Maryland resort near Deep Creek Lake, whose real estate division has been hurt by slow sales at a planned golf course community.

The owners, D.C. Development LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month after a default on nearly $30 million in loans they got from BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., to build a golf course community near the ski hill. Owners are looking for new investors during the reorganization.

Ms. Epp emphasized that "there will be no interruption in services or activities. The resort operations are a profitable business, and plans are still in place to maintain the current ownership and to continue improving and expanding the resort over the next few years."

Wisp has continued to invest in its snowmaking and snow-grooming operations, she said. Two Prinoth snow groomers will join the groomer fleet to comb the resort's 32 slopes and trails.

The resort plans to open for skiing and snowboarding on Nov. 25, weather permitting, she said.

Seven Springs, home to six terrain parks, has added another. The Streets Urban Park, which will replicate a city landscape, will be located in the Foggy Bowl, on the front face of the mountain.

In addition, Seven Springs will raise the walls of its Superpipe from 18 feet to 22 feet to make it a regulation Olympic-sized halfpipe, one of only two on the East Coast.

"The goal of the Superpipe has always been to provide a venue for competitions and to become a training ground for the evolution of freestyle skiing and riding," said Joel Rerko, the resort's action sports director. The resort will host the Gatorade Free Flow, a top amateur event, in the Superpipe on Feb. 4-5.

TransWorld SNOWboarding magazine ranked Seven Springs first in terrain parks and fourth in halfpipes in North America. And Yahoo rated the resort as one of the top five locations for a snowboarding vacation. The other four were Aspen/Snowmass, Colo.; Mammoth Mountain, Calif.; Breckenridge, Colo., and Park City, Utah. Not bad company.

Seven Springs also will open an additional beginner area -- Easy Rider -- at the base of the Stowe slope on the front side of the resort. It's designed to help guests make the transition from the Beginner Bowl to novice runs such as Fawn Lane and Phillip's Run. It has a 180-foot-long Magic Carpet lift.

During the summer, owners remodeled the rental shop and purchased 1,250 pairs of skis and bindings and 2,500 pairs of boots.

Rental shop manager Chris Pelliccione said the skis have "Autoturn Rocker Technology" designed to make them easier to steer, balance and also help control speed. "This technology will help boost the confidence of beginner skiers," he said.

Five chairlifts -- North Face, North Pole, Tyrol, Cortina and Blitzen -- were retrofitted to increase their speed.

Over at Hidden Valley, the resort has opened Voyageur Glades, a 3.5-acre tract of gently sloped terrain for glade skiing on the North Summit. It also set up a terrain park with natural and man-made features on the lower section of Jaguar, the former site of a half pipe. It will be served by a handle tow.

The resort is offering a free bonus for first-time skiers and snowboarders. After completing their first lesson, beginners can join another beginner class during any regularly scheduled group lesson that same day for additional instruction.

And all first-time guests who complete a beginner lesson or a Learn-to-Ski/Snowboard package will receive a discount card valued at more than $200 in savings on return visits to the resort.

Spokeswoman Laura Argenbright said the base lodge has new carpeting and paint. New exterior doors, windows, drapes and expanded Wi-Fi have been installed in all 80 rooms and suites in the Four Seasons Lodge.

Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, N.Y., spent $5.3 million on a Sky High Mountain Coaster, a quad chairlift, two snow grooming machines and improvements to its expansive snowmaking system.

The $1.5 million coaster in the Tannenbaum area of the resort is open year-round. Its quad replaces the SnowPine double chair and enhances the ski-in, ski-out access to SnowPine Village condominiums.

An automated snowmaking system was installed on the mile-long Mardi Gras slope. Weather stations on the upper and lower sections of the slope will monitor temperature, humidity, wind direction and speed and direct a computer to turn the snowguns on off, or increase the air and water flow.

Holiday Valley's new groomers will be used along with five others to resurface its 58 slopes and trails each night. A hydraulic tiller behind the machine grinds the snow and leaves the surface with a corduroy appearance.

Ski Sawmill, a small ski area near Morris in Tioga County, installed a triple chair it purchased last year from Ski Shawnee, a resort in the Poconos. It also has a double chair.

Whitetail near Mercersburg in Franklin County spent $2.8 million on improvements to its snowmaking and slope-lighting systems, a loading carpet for EZ Rider quad chairlift, 600 new Burton snowboards, new Elan adult rental skis and Dalbello boots.

Its owner, Snow Time Inc., also owns Ski Liberty and Roundtop Mountain, both in Pennsylvania. It offers a Three Area Season Pass that gives skiers and snowboarders access to all three resorts.

Hidden Valley and Blue Knob have set up a passholder exchange program for their season passholders. In addition to a complimentary lift ticket good for one day -- excluding Saturdays and holiday periods -- the passholders will receive a 50 percent discount on lift tickets for any additional visits.

Hidden Valley, Seven Springs, Wisp and Snowshoe have a similar exchange program for their respective season passholders.

Snowshoe in east-central West Virginia will open Nov. 23, weather permitting. It received 20 inches of snow last month and prides itself on its extensive snowmaking system and its elevation (4,848 feet) that attracts an average of 180 inches of snow a year.

An on-snow manager explains the art and science of snowmaking and grooming in a 45-minute seminar at 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Snowshoe bought a winch cat groomer to groom its steepest slopes every night. The resort also opened Mountaineer Parks, a 27-acre site that encompasses its five freestyle areas.

There also are two new restaurants. Sunset Cantina offers Southwestern cuisine, and the South Mountain Grille offers "urban diner fare," including a sushi and sake bar.

Snowshoe, which Ski magazine readers rated as the No. 1 resort in the Southeast, has a new online booking engine, several money-saving packages and a number of family-friendly programs.

Note: Your cell phone may not work because the resort is in a federally regulated "Quiet Zone" administered by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory located in Green Bank, about 30 minutes south of the resort. There are, however, a few places where cell phones work, especially if AT&T is the service provider.

Boyce Park, Mystic Mountain at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa, Mount Pleasant at Edinboro and Oglebay continue to be among the less intimidating places to learn to ski and snowboard because of their overall gentle terrain.

If you're not a skier or snowboarder, many resorts have other activities -- everything from bowling, indoor miniature golf and swimming to snowtubing, dogsledding and old-fashioned sleigh rides.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11317/1189041-287.stm#ixzz1dbEgzg51
 
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